344. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US-Canadian Relations


  • His Excellency, A. E. Ritchie, Ambassador of Canada
  • The Secretary
  • Richard Straus, Acting Country Director for Canada

(The Secretary had on November 2 at a reception mentioned to Ambassador Ritchie that he was troubled by the current state of Canadian-American relations.2 As a result of this conversation Ambassador Ritchie had requested an appointment with the Secretary which was granted for November 16.)

The Secretary commented that he had not had an opportunity to think as much about the state of Canadian relations as he had hoped to in preparation for the Ambassador’s call. Ambassador Ritchie asked whether the Secretary thought that US-Canadian relations were still troubled or headed for trouble. The Secretary, with a tone of humor, asked Ambassador Ritchie whether anti-Americanism was good politics in Canada these days. Ambassador Ritchie responded with a strong negative. He indicated that with the exception of Viet-Nam, where there appeared to be a definite difference of opinion over American bombing policy, he saw no real evidence of a deterioration of relations. Indeed he believed that following shortly after the successful conclusion [Page 726] of the Kennedy Round3 and with Canadian cooperation in such fields as foreign exchange reserves, relations were indeed good. Many positive steps in this direction were being taken. Among these was the statement in favor of continued cooperation in NORAD which had just been made by Mr. Martin.4

The Secretary said he was familiar with Canadian cooperation in the Kennedy Round, Canadian activities in the field of foreign aid, with the value of the auto agreement and with Canadian efforts in the field of foreign exchange reserves. He was also aware of Canadian activities in UN peacekeeping and of a closer relationship with the other NATO countries in arriving at a consensus of the 14. There were, however, some specific irritants. The US had thought, for instance, that Canada had been fully consulted on the ABM; yet Mr. Pearson’s indication seemed to have been that he had only been informed.

Ambassador Ritchie claimed that the word “consultation” had a special meaning to Canadians, a sort of “folklore” dating to the Mackenzie King days and his relationship with Britain when “consultation” began to mean the equivalent of commitment. He thought the Liberal Government had deliberately shied away from using this expression because of this tradition. Certainly, Canada had been fully informed of US ABM plans and the discussions that had been held were much appreciated.

Viet-Nam. The Secretary said he found a difference between public statements and private statements on Viet-Nam. While we had had very good relationships in private, some of the Canadian public statements seemed to him somewhat unnecessary. He particularly referred to the ICC which he said had been created as a sort of “troika” with one Communist member (Poland), one neutral member (India) and one Western member (Canada). It now seemed to him on occasion that what we had were two neutrals and Poland.

Ambassador Ritchie would not be drawn into a discussion of Canadian public attitudes on this question. He forcefully stated that in the Commission proceedings themselves, Canada was far from neutral, that Canada had made great efforts at presenting a point of view different from that of the other two but had been thwarted because of Indian intransigence. The Secretary said that when sentiments opposing the American action in Viet-Nam are made in Canada he was particularly concerned because Canada was such a close neighbor.

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He felt that with Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand openly supporting the American point of view and more sub rosa support coming from Laos, Burma and Indonesia, he would hope that this vast interest of friendly Asian countries might be reflected in the public attitudes taken by the Canadian Government. He recalled that he had been startled when Foreign Minister Martin said to him in private during his last visit that if there were a resolution in the UN calling on the US unilaterally to halt its bombing, Mr. Martin would have to vote for it.5 Ambassador Ritchie again indicated that Mr. Martin had reflected what he believed was Canadian public opinion and what he thought might bring about genuine negotiations.

The Secretary asked whether anyone in the Canadian Government had commented on the President’s San Antonio formula.6 Ambassador Ritchie asked what might have been a useful comment on the part of the Canadian Government. The Secretary responded that a call to Hanoi to respond affirmatively to the President’s offer might have been appropriate. Ambassador Ritchie thought that this type of statement had been made on many occasions. He said Canadian opinion was very strong on this subject and that Mr. Pearson, contrary to some of the European leaders, was associated in some Canadian minds with the President as demonstrated by the fact that he had been picketed when he recently spoke at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

Aeroflot. The Secretary then mentioned that he had not known of the outcome of the Aeroflot negotiations between Canada and the USSR when he last spoke to Ambassador Ritchie. He had been troubled by the possibility that so shortly after the OAS had passed its resolution asking the friends of Latin America to help it in containing Castro, the Canadian Government was about to give a refueling stop at Gander to the Soviet Union. He didn’t think that Cuba was that important to Canada. Ambassador Ritchie said that this had not been a matter of Cuba’s importance to Canada, rather that what had motivated Canada was the desire to obtain a substantial quid-pro-quo in hard-headed civil aviation negotiations. Canada would only have given the rights at Gander if it had obtained access to some remote airport in the USSR in return. This question was on the shelf for the time being and would not be re-raised unless some new elements were thrown into the pot.

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Gordon Study.7 The Secretary asked when the Gordon study would be completed. Ambassador Ritchie thought that while the study might be completed in the next few weeks it should not be viewed as an anti-American document. While Minister Gordon might have his own attitudes there were others in the Canadian Government, notably Minister Sharp, who disagreed with him and in any case the Gordon study was not necessarily government policy.

Restrictions on Turkey Imports. The Secretary then mentioned the restrictions on the imports of American turkeys. Ambassador Ritchie said that there had been consultations on the subject and that a statement was about to be issued. Mr. Straus indicated that while there had been consultations they had not led to any agreement and it was perhaps the circumstances under which the negotiations were initiated as much as anything else that had proved to be an irritant. Ambassador Ritchie readily agreed and said that he thought that there would be problems because, as the Secretary smilingly pointed out, the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee as well as the Leader of the Opposition were representatives of turkey producing states.

Postal Rate Discrimination. Speaking of the question of postal rate restrictions against the American magazines Time and Reader’s Digest, the Secretary asked Ambassador Ritchie whether the contemplated postal rate action was not another example of protectionism. Ambassador Ritchie indicated that postal rates for Time and Reader’s Digest would be increased and that this was being done to protect Canadian periodicals which would otherwise go down the drain. He said that the proportion of Canadian periodicals to non-Canadian periodicals circulating in Canada was already so disproportionate that there was practically no possibility for an expression of a Canadian point of view and that it was, therefore, necessary to take some action to prevent the possibility of the Canadian periodicals being driven off the market altogether. There had to be some room for the expression of Canadian views even on a subject such as Viet-Nam where some Canadian views might well differ with those expressed in US publications.

In summary, however, Ambassador Ritchie felt that we were doing more together these days than we had ever done before and that Canada would not be in the business of building dams in western Canada as a cooperative venture with the US if US-Canadian relationships were really headed for trouble.

ICC . Reverting to the Canadian ICC role, the Secretary wondered whether the Canadians had a man in Phnom Penh. Ambassador Ritchie [Page 729] replied in the affirmative but indicated that a Canadian representative had been most frustrated in seeking to inspect infiltration into Viet-Nam through Cambodia because of the Indian refusal to accept anything except a unanimous decision by the ICC. He wondered whether the Secretary’s question was based on the fact that current attacks on American troops in Viet-Nam seemed to be based in Cambodia. He also asked whether the US was thinking of following through on its theory of hot pursuit. The Secretary said that the situation was very difficult, that the troops attacking Dak To obviously came from Cambodia and would probably return there but that proof was difficult to obtain. Ambassador Ritchie offered to have the Canadian representative in Phnom Penh be of any assistance that he could possibly be and invited the Secretary to call him in this regard.

NATO . Turning to NATO and the Harmel study,8 the Secretary asked Ambassador Ritchie what he thought of its current status. Ambassador Ritchie thought that US-Canadian cooperation on this study had been quite good, that the 14 seemed to be working well together. The Secretary thought that it was important that the study itself not be watered down. While we might be flexible as to procedure and not confront the French with a vote, it seemed to him that it was important to have made the study and it was important not to dissipate the work that had been done. In this connection he asked Ambassador Ritchie whether there were continued pressures in Canada for Canada to reduce its commitment to NATO. Ambassador Ritchie indicated that while the pressures were still present, Minister Martin had in his speech in Toronto sought to restate the Canadian commitment and had done so effectively. Ambassador Ritchie added that Mr. Martin had also said in that speech that no power had the right to intervene in the affairs of another country without the authorization of the UN and had been misquoted as having directed this statement at US policy in Viet-Nam. He had officially denied this. The Secretary indicated that he had received Mr. Martin’s personal denial to our Embassy at Ottawa.

The Secretary indicated that he would see Foreign Minister Martin in Brussels9 and talk with him there and that he might follow-up with Ambassador Ritchie when he returned from the NATO meeting.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967-69, POL CAN-US. Secret; Limdis. Drafted by Straus and approved in S on November 22. The meeting was held in the Secretary’s office.
  2. No record of this conversation was found.
  3. Reference is to the Geneva Protocol to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade signed at Geneva June 30, 1967, and entered into force January 1, 1968. For text, see 19 UST 1.
  4. In a November 11 address in Toronto, Martin reaffirmed Canadian participation in NORAD.
  5. Apparently a reference to Martin’s comments during his November 25, 1966, meeting with Rusk; see Document 338.
  6. For text of President Johnson’s September 29 statement before the National Legislative Conference meeting in San Antonio, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B. Johnson, 1967, Book II, pp. 876-881.
  7. On January 23, 1967, Pearson set up a committee chaired by Gordon Walker to study the effect of foreign ownership on Canadian industry.
  8. For text of the Harmel Report, “Future Tasks of the Alliance,” see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1967, pp. 321-323.
  9. November 12-16.